Fuifui at 40

Gareth Walker hears from the former New Zealand and Tongan international keen to keep going

When Leigh Centurions announced NRL cult hero Fuifui Moimoi as a head-turning signing in late 2014, nobody, certainly not the player himself, would have thought he would still be playing in England six years on.

Moimoi was brought to the Centurions to help speed their attempt to reach Super League, and was a huge name at the time after over 200 NRL appearances with Parramatta Eels.

Fast forward to today, and, aged 40, Moimoi is preparing to start another new chapter in his remarkable career at Rochdale Hornets.

Since that popular spell at Leigh he has also endeared himself to supporters in Toronto and Workington. Hornets are hoping he will have a similar effect in 2021, as well as continuing to cause a stir on the field.

Moimoi himself admits he could never have envisaged playing at this age, and couldn’t identify the secret to his longevity when one journalist asked what the secret to eternal youth was at last week’s Rochdale media day.

“To be honest, I don’t know how I keep going, kava maybe,” Moimoi grinned.

“I’ll see how my body gets on.

“All players take note of how their body’s feeling, so I’ll go every year and see how it goes and obviously my body will tell me when I’ve had enough and then I’ll stop.

“I’ll play whenever and wherever, whatever the coach wants me to do.

“If he wants me come off the bench or start, I’ll do whatever is best for the team.”

Mention of coach Matt Calland raises another smile for Moimoi when asked about pre-season so far.

“I’m enjoying it,” the Tongan international replied.

“I was a bit nervous when I first started with the boys and Matt, but in the last couple of weeks I’ve really been enjoying training.

“I’ve never worked with a coach who is as fit as Matt – he’s fitter than most of our players!

“I’m looking forward to the season to start, as it’s been a tough year for Rugby League, as it has for other sports.

“Rochdale really want to go up to the Championship, so that’s a big challenge for me and the team.

“We have to work hard and get promotion.”

Calland has already seen the benefit of bringing Moimoi in from Workington, where his close friendship with Hornets’ hooker Sean Penkywicz helped lead to the move.

“He’s a natural leader with all the experience he’s had in the game,” Calland said of Moimoi.

“He leads by example. When he speaks everybody listens.

“He gives little cues to the younger guys in training and has been really good to have around.

“He’s been invaluable and he’ll be just as valuable off the field as he will be on it.

“He’s a big signing for the club – he’s a big name and a cult hero over in Australia from his time in the NRL.

“I’m hoping he’ll be able to entertain the fans at Rochdale this year and help to bring more people through the gates.”

That kind of benefit was exactly what Rochdale Chairman Andy Mazey saw in the move.

At Leigh, Moimoi’s relationship with supporters was never illustrated better than when he scored his first try for the club against London in March 2015 and then ran to the back of the stand behind the posts to celebrate with fans.

Mazey wants to bring that kind of connection between player and supporter to Hornets.

He said: “I’m from Leigh and I fully appreciated and saw the impact he had when he arrived there, and that’s what I was keen to see happen in Rochdale.

“I know the interest and what I’ve always found with Fui is he’s got that charisma and personality.

“There was a genuine feeling he can do the business on the field still.

“I’ve seen him play for Workington. The way Matt is going to use him, he can still have a massive impact at this level of the sport.”

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